ACTION ALERT: Tell Media ‘Don’t Sell Trump’s War on Iran’

July 1st, 2019 - by Win Without War & Eric Hananoki / Media Matters

Win Without War

(June 30, 2019) — US-Iran relations have teetered towards a dangerous tipping point — and every breaking story seems set on launching us into a nightmare.

And just when we need them most, too many media outlets are failing to apply a critical lens to Trump’s march to war with Iran and are putting out sloppy, dangerous journalism.

In fact, there is a HUGE Trump administration and arms dealer-led PR campaign to sell the US public a war with Iran, and the media is helping serve it up.

Media outlets helped the Bush administration sell the Iraq war over a decade ago. We can’t let history repeat itself.

Now is not the time for our media to serve as a mouthpiece for the pro-war machine. The stakes are literally life and death. That’s why we need to make sure media outlets know we are watching. Will you add your name to our urgent call:

Here are just a few examples of what’s been included in past weeks’ coverage of Trump’s Iran policy:

  • Op-eds, quotes, and interviews by arms dealer manufacturers and lobbyists without identifying them as such, like David Urban who is a lobbyist for numerous defense contractors [1] and Michael Vickers who’s on the board of BAE Systems [2];
  • Consistently and unquestioningly taking John Bolton’s briefings about Iran at his word, without noting his explicit decades-long desire to go to war with Iran [3]; and
  • Headline after headline painting Iran as the SOLE aggressor — missing the critical context of US antagonisation that got us to this point — often accompanied by unrelated photos of Iranians burning American flags for no apparent reason other than to stoke division [4].

Uncritical journalism gives the Iran War PR-spin an aura of fact — and that’s part of how we ended up with a congressionally-authorized war in Iraq. 

The Bush administration fed knowingly bogus or unsubstantiated intelligence on Iraq’s (nonexistent) WMD programs, or its dubious al-Qaeda connections, to reporters, who then published it without interrogation.

In such politically tense times, the media should be applying the highest level of scrutiny to every source, accusation, and call for military strikes. This is what journalists are trained to do. This is what most of them entered their careers to do. With so much at stake we need them to not to fall for Trump, Bolton, and Pompeo’s fear-mongering and sell their war.

That’s why we have to speak out LOUD now and assert that we don’t buy this PR campaign, and we want the media to call it out!

ACTION: US media outlets: Call out Trump administration officials trying to take us to war!

In times like these, the megaphones for government war hawks, arms dealers, and military strategists are always the loudest. But the voices of those who will feel the impact of a devastating and costly war — Iranian and American civilians, servicemembers, and tax-payers — are drowned out.

That’s why those owning the megaphones — the mainstream media — hold so much power in deciding who and what is heard. And that’s why we have to push the media as hard as we push Congress in making sure they are reporting on Trump’s march to war with Iran fairly, accurately, and within context.


Dear US media outlets ABC, AP, CBS, CNN, NBC, NPR, the New York Times, Reuters, USA Today, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal:

  1. Stop quoting, interviewing, and featuring op-eds from those calling for war with Iran without identifying their ties to the defense industry. 
  2. Stop writing headlines that paint the US as an innocent actor and Iran as the sole aggressor.
  3. Stop featuring National Security Advisor John Bolton on segments, op-eds, and quotes without noting his history of calling for war with Iran for two decades. 
  4. Challenge any and all claims on Iran made by Trump administration officials and their allies. 
  5. Stop quoting biased commentators without identifying they are part of pro-war or pro-regime change think tanks like the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy, or are fake accounts by the MEK/Mojahedin-e-Khalq
  6. Stop using incendiary and orientalist photos of “Iranians burning an American flag” randomly paired with articles on events not connected to the photo at all.
  7. Quote, interview, and feature progressive Ianian, Iranian-American, and American people, activists, and experts who cn speak to the real impacts of a destructive US-Iran war.

Thank you for working for peace,

Stephen and the Win Without War team


[1] Media Matters, “CNN doesn’t tell viewers its analyst who urged a military strike against Iran is a lobbyist for defense contractors

[2] Media Matters, “Wash. Post fails to disclose that op-ed writer advocating military strikes against Iran is on the board of a major defense contractor

[3] The Guardian, “Is John Bolton the most dangerous man in the world?

[4] Media Matters, “Media flirt with disaster in accepting Iran claims from the credibility-challenged Trump administration

CNN Doesn’t Tell Viewers its Analyst Who Urged a Military Strike Against Iran Is a Lobbyist for Defense Contractors

Eric Hananoki / Media Matters

 (June 23, 2019) — During CNN’s “breaking news” coverage of the conflict between the United States and Iran, CNN political commentator David Urban advocated for a missile strike against Iran, claiming that “the Iranian government has to be checked” and that there needs to be “retribution” for its alleged actions against the United States. The network didn’t disclose to viewers that Urban is a lobbyist for numerous defense contractors.

Urban appeared on the June 20 edition of CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper, where he advocated for striking Iran with a missile . . . .

CNN, Urban, and host Jake Tapper didn’t disclose during the segment that Urban has extensive financial ties to military contractors.

In addition to working for CNN, Urban is the president of American Continental Group (ACG). The company states on its website that its “defense and homeland security practices draw on years of experience working at the highest levels of the legislative branch and the federal appropriations process. We help our clients understand the nuances of the system, make sure they have a chance to make their voices heard, and secure favorable legislative outcomes on their behalf.”

ACG lobbies on behalf of numerous defense-related clients, including for defense contractors GeneralDynamicsHoneywell International, ​Kaman Corp., ​MAG DC Corp., and ​Textron Inc., according to a search of federal lobbying records. Urban personally lobbies for those previously mentioned companies, according to ACG’s filings.  

CNN did not respond to a request for comment.

Media Matters has previously documented problems with CNN failing to adequately disclose the lobbying or consulting ties of its on-air commentators, including regarding Urban on The LeadThe Washington Postalso recently posted a pro-Iran strike op-ed by Michael G. Vickers without disclosing that he serves on the board of directors for defense contractor BAE Systems.

Wash. Post Fails to Disclose that Op-ed Writer Advocating Military Strikes against Iran Is on the Board of a Major Defense Contractor

Zachary Pleat / Media Matters

(June 24, 2019) — The Washington Post published an op-ed on Friday by former Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael G. Vickers in which he called for “limited US military strikes” against Iran. But the newspaper failed to disclose that Vickers serves on the board of BAE Systems Inc., the American subsidiary of a major multinational defense contractor.

BAE Systems published a press release in December 2015 saying that Vickers had “been appointed to its board of directors for a three-year term.” The company confirmed on June 24 that Vickers is still an active member of its board.

But in Vickers’ June 21 op-ed, the Post identified him only as “a former special forces officer and CIA operations officer” who “served as assistant secretary of defense for special operations, low-intensity conflict and interdependent capabilities (2007-2011) and undersecretary of defense for intelligence (2011-2015).”

In the column, Vickers urged President Donald Trump to authorize military strikes against Iran, writing, “The Trump administration should respond to these recent attacks with strikes of its own on Iranian and Houthi air-defense assets, offensive missile systems and Revolutionary Guard Corps bases. A measured but firm response is what is required.”

This isn’t the first time the Post has had disclosure issues with authors writing for its opinion section. Previously, the newspaper repeatedly published articles by opinion writer Ed Rogers about issues of interest to his lobbying firm’s clients without disclosing his financial conflicts of interest.

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